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Flagler Beach Mayor Calls Special Meeting on Fire Truck Only To Be Outmaneuvered With Planned Vote

| October 13, 2014

Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher wanted a meeting to further investigate a dubious fire truck buy. Instead, she got a meeting where the commission may finally vote to go ahead with the $600,000 purchase this evening. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher wanted a meeting to further investigate what she considers a dubious fire truck buy. Instead, she got a meeting where the commission may finally vote to go ahead with the $600,000 purchase this evening. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher has too many unanswered questions about the city’s planned purchase of a $600,000 fire truck. Less than two weeks ago she called for a special meeting of the commission to raise the questions, and to hear from the truck manufacturer and other experts in the field. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. this evening.

What Provencher did not expect was to be outmaneuvered by her own city manager, who sets meeting agendas. One of the items Bruce Campbell included on the agenda was “possible action related to direction to staff to purchase.”

Provencher tried to cancel the meeting, as some of the presenting guests she wanted there could not make it. She couldn’t. She then tried to have the Campbell item removed. That failed, too.

“I do still have a lot of concerns as well as other people about not just this particular truck but this particular company,” Provencher told fellow-commissioners at a meeting last week. “I just feel that making this type of purchase should take more than one meeting.”

Commissioner Jane Mealy said the purchase has been talked about since May. “I’m beginning to feel like we’re stretching a rubber band and we’re just going on and on and on and not making any progress,” Mealy said. “If at the end of that—we don’t have to take a vote that night if we don’t feel comfortable, right? If at the end of that night the majority of us feel ready to take a vote, I don’t want to take it off the agenda.”

Provencher disputed the notion that the truck has been talked about that much. She said it was first brought up during a strategic session, where commissioners don’t vote.

It was also discussed during a budget workshop, where commissioners don’t vote\, and at two town halls called by Commissioner Steve Settle, an ardent supporter of the first truck purchase. Both town hall meetings were carefully orchestrated as cheerleading sessions for the truck, with only city firefighters as spokesmen and no countervailing officials. Commissioners don’t have to attend those town hall meetings, though most did (Provencher did not), but they can’t vote at those sessions.  A petition that gathered some 600 signatures opposed to the truck buy was derided by commissioners as unrepresentative. Commission Chairperson Kim Carney brought up the matter in an agenda item of her own, trying to get the purchase voted down, but she failed to get so much as a second for her motion. In sum, the commission has never taken a vote specific to the fire truck. The closest it came to doing so was by approving the budget, which included money for the truck.

“I just feel like we’ve never spent this kind of money on a piece of equipment in our entire lives, and there are a lot of concerns out there about it,” Provencher said.

“I don’t really want us to vote on it that night, and that was never my intent,” Provencher said, referring to her reason for calling the special meeting. “It really wasn’t, and somehow, I mean I signed for the meeting, so it’s there, but I really would not like us to vote on this that night.”

What if Monday’s discussions convince the city that it’s the right purchase, Commissioner Joy McGrew asked.

“Who’s going to convince you? The fire department and the salesman?” Provencher retorted. “Yeah, of course they’re going to convince you. They’re absolutely going to convince you.”

Click On:

Provencher pressed her case. She is unconvinced that the city needs a tower truck, or that particular truck, called a “quint,” because of its versatility. The city had at one point agreed to put the truck out for bid, she said, then didn’t. She circulated materials to her fellow commissioners raising questions about the proposed buy, including a 2009 article from Fire Engineering that started: “Quint debates can be partial, biased, and downright emotional. Traditionalists cannot accept the idea that the traditionalpumpless ladder truck, equipped with large amounts of ancillary equipment, an aerial device, and numerous ground ladders, may be a thing of the past. They cannot understand why today’s firefighters and administrators believe that multitasking apparatus with fewer personnel is the cure-all on the fireground. This article does not discredit the quint or pit the old against the new. Instead, it objectively illustrates the diminishing capabilities of the traditional ladder company and limitations that purchasing a quint—and, in particular, a small one—imposes on fireground operations. The quintuple apparatus may not be the cure-all for budget cuts, consolidation, downsizing, and inadequate staffing.” (The city circulated its own back-up materials.)

“Unfortunately,” Provencher said, “it just seems like everybody’s mind is made up, and there’s no questions. I’ve given you literature to read, I don’t think anybody’s read it or looked into it.”

“I read it last night, don’t start doing that stuff,” Mealy snapped.

“So based on everything that you’re read on this company you’re still ready to move forward with it?” Provencher asked.

“I didn’t say I was ready to buy the truck,” Mealy said. But three commissioners “might feel ready to vote.” She added: “Let’s get our questions answered Monday night. If three of us feel ready to vote, we’ll vote. If we feel like there’s still some questions, then we won’t.”

The city’s current ladder truck has been out of service—a fact commissioners learned of only last Thursday. It needs at least $36,000 in repairs. The quint, which has a body of just under 37 feet in length, has a 75-foot ladder. But it won’t be built and ready for delivery for almost a year, leaving the city without a ladder truck during that time. Carney, the commission chairman who has opposed the quint buy all along, says that fact should be enough to give commissioners pause, since the city can operate fine without a ladder truck by relying on its mutual aid agreements with Palm Coast and the county for ladder trucks, which make it into the city on emergencies in matters of minutes. Carney said the city’s own statistics show that given the number of actual fire calls involving homes or businesses, a new ladder truck is not warranted. Those numbers appear below.

This evening’s meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at City Hall in Flagler Beach. It is open to the public.

Fire Calls in Flagler Beach, 2013

14 Responses for “Flagler Beach Mayor Calls Special Meeting on Fire Truck Only To Be Outmaneuvered With Planned Vote”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    It seems to be that there is very little in the way of documented “process/procedures” for ANY purchases by our city commissioners. Most government entities have strict policies to follow for purchasing ANYTHING which costs over a set amount. Often, there are stepped authorizations, especially for “high costs” items, and requirements for things such as:

    1. Feasibility Studies
    2. Costs Benefit Analysis
    3. Bidding Requirements/Requests for Proposal, etc.

    If our commissioners would follow such standard processes instead of what often seems to be flying by “the seat of their pants”, they would most certainly appear to be more professional and less hap hazard, at best. It appears that we not only need commissioners that conduct themselves more professionally, but we also need leadership that will establish and adhere to standards and practices that are used every day by most successful private companies, as well as governmental organizations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So, Flagler Beach already has a ladder truck that can be fixed at a cost of 6%-7% of that shiney new one. Additionally, fixing the one they have would probably have it back in service in about a month as opposed to waiting a year for the new one. Is it really that much of a decision? Taxpayer money is to easy to spend.

  3. Enough says:

    How much money is actually spent holding 1000 meetings on whether a new fire truck is worth it ? I mean REALLY enough already !!!!

  4. Retired FF says:

    Ok, how many of those 13 building fires required an aerial truck? Purchasing a Quint is a waste of money that the city will be paying for many years in addition to the increasingly expensive maintenance. Be smart city leaders. Purchase a regular fire truck and it will serve the community for many years and will be versatile for any type of incident.

  5. Rick Belhumeur says:

    Mayor Provencher wanted to have town hall meeting inviting fire fighting and purchasing experts of her own to answer any and all questions that anyone had. Saying that, the Mayor did not want this meeting to be confused with her regular monthly town hall meeting. Somehow it all got changed around to where a special meeting of the city commission has been called. The format of this meeting will be totally different and citizens will be limited to 3 minutes to relay their thoughts to the commission and will not be able to question the experts as Mayor Provencher wanted. Now, Mr. Campbell has changed the agenda to include a vote by the commission to approve the issuance of a purchase order for the specific Quint fire truck that the city manager and fire department are requesting. Monday’s meeting might prove to be the last opportunity for anyone opposed to this purchase to address the commission. Anyone that signed our petition has been told by most of the commission that they’re insignificant. These people are the ones that need to come and confront those that have implied that your thoughts are irrelevant.

  6. confidential says:

    Good for Mayor Provencher!
    Out of a city with about 4,600 residents if 600 signed a petition against the expenditure should be enough to reconsider in these still hard economic times for all. Americans have even decreased their gas consumption reducing car and boat enjoyment …just look at that deserted Intracoastal waterway on weekends.
    Kind of what is taking place in Palm Coast other than accepting the offer of the current city government location, mall owner to buy it out for $1 at end of a 15 to 20 year current lease rate for around a cost of 5 million…rejects the offer and insist on building a new much more expensive city hall on the pockets of taxpayers that said NO by referendum. To them is just other people’s monies. Meanwhile our infrastructure in place is decaying without rebuilding or repair and blight advances.

  7. Linda Morgan says:

    The picture of our mayor says it all ! After reading all of the FBFD calls for 2013, buying this truck seems like overkill. Only 13 building fires, 1 mobile home, and about 16 calls for brush, vegetation, outside trash, forests, woods or wildlife , that could be near homes and put them in possible danger. We are talking about a truck that is not in line with budget cuts, and would lead to less personnel ? Why can’t we take a “wait and see” approach and when our statisic’s show the need, look for possible used one at less costs.
    This “buy the newest and best” available can be compared to our young adults that have to have the newest I-phone available. Let’s pretend you are spending your own money.

  8. Rick Belhumeur says:

    13 building fires out of 1,243 incidents in a year, that means that 98.95% of the time a ladder truck isn’t needed. The fire department proposes to send a $600,00 ladder truck on every call, needed or not… only to wear it out prematurely.

    Let the voters decide whether or not a quint, by any manufacturer, is the right vehicle for this city. If they say yes, then buy a dependable piece of equipment that can be repaired locally. Nobody disputes the fact that this city needs a new fire truck, but keep in mind that whatever we buy, we have to maintain it for a minimum of 20 years. It doesn’t need to be a Cadillac, but we don’t want something that won’t last either. All we are asking is that you buy the right fire truck for the city. This Rosenbauer Viper quint is not the right choice.

  9. Gia says:

    If that city use the Palm Coast truck they should paid for the service. If FB want one for their owne use MAKE IT TO PEOPLE VOTE

  10. markingthedays says:

    Way to stand your ground Linda P!

  11. Yellowstone says:

    Why hasn’t Flagler County offered a solution to Flagler Beach? Something like providing temporary access to a similar truck.

    Certainly there is a neighboring ‘more affluent’ city (ie, Winter Park, Orlando, Orange County . . Miami, Tampa, JAX) that maybe going through a downsizing or renewal process.

    Surplus equipment comes to mind. Maybe there is a Quint in that pile of confiscated Florida drug trucks!?

  12. Redtired Ct firefighter says:

    I totally agree with the retired firefighter…………….c’mon………a Quint?? A new engine may be needed………but a Quint. It would be equipped with options rarely used. Can’t Flagler Beach talk to anyone with apparatus knowledge? This whole issue sounds like someone wants a new toy. C’mon Mayor……………do your job here.

  13. Diane J Cline says:

    I went to the meeting and it came to mind…was it properly advertised? Anyway, I want to thank Linda P and Kim Carney for all of the homework that they have done (during which by the way I think you ran an excellent meeting Kim) and I came away very disappointed. However, you did not answer my question…why this truck and why now? All I can say is that if it is going to cost more than that what you said…take it out of your hide….not mine! This fire captain admitted that the boat was not a good purchase…but no one will admit that the previous ladder truck was a total screw up. How can we trust you? Ok Jane I get it…you are tired and don’t want to deal with complex decisions anymore…hello…resign!!! For the rest of you to just cave and to say yes to whatever is suggested is not acceptable. You were on board with what the previous fire person said…now this guy says something completely different…doesn’t that ring a bell?

  14. Same says:

    Hurray for the approval of the NEW QUINT!!!!!

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